It is not unusual for teenagers to refuse to go on family outings or vacations. They suddenly feel as if they are too old to participate in such events, and they want their independence. Friends have also begun to play a big role in their lives, and it is hard for them to imagine all of the fun that they will be missing back home if they are forced to remain with the family for an entire week or more! It does not always mean that your teenager does not enjoy being around you, but he wants you to take his independence seriously. It is crucial to explain to your teenager that you do understand his needs but that you also miss having him along. As you struggle with this difficult period of time, consider the following suggestions.
- Don’t use guilt: Using guilt to motivate your teenager to participate in the family vacations will only worsen your relationship. The commonly used phrase, “You don’t love us if you decide not to go,” is much more harmful than many parents realize. This simple phrase shows your teenager that you are insecure about her love for you, and it will cause frustration and anger before it causes her to change her decision.
- Don’t relate the desire to not participate to other things that your teen might have already done: It is not an effective approach to discuss things that your teenager has done in the past that you don’t agree with. Teenagers’ decisions not to participate in the vacation is not based upon their past actions, and they therefore should not be a factor. For example, correlating your teenager’s lack of family participation at church with his recent decision to not go on the family outing will show him that you have not forgiven him of past arguments.
- Don’t give your teenager a negative ultimatum: If you decide to give your teenager the choice of staying home or not, do not place negative consequences upon her decision. An example of a negative ultimatum would be not allowing her to attend any future vacations if she decides not to participate in this one.
- Offer your teenager several options: It is important for teenagers to know that they do have a say in the family functions. Helping them to acknowledge that their opinion has meaning will make the difference in your relationship. Dr. David Elkind, in the book Parenting Your Teenager, said, “I suggested to a young man that he ask his parents whether he might take one of his friends along on the camping trip. His parents agreed, and in this case, the arrangement proved to be a happy solution for everyone concerned.”
- Acknowledge personal preferences: When you invite your teenagers to state their preferences, they will be more excited in participating with you in the planning and organization of the entire family outing. Make a decision together about where the family should go to dinner or what show the family should purchase tickets for.
- Recognize that sometimes adolescents need space: It might be appropriate for you to provide your teenagers with their own time or space once you have reached your destination.
- You may allow your teenagers to skip a family outing once in a while: “Some young people are quite trustworthy and can take care of themselves for a day or two without any problems. Others, however, are less mature and responsible, so it is very important that you make arrangements for these teenagers to stay with relatives or a friend’s family,” Elkind said.